TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Legal Newsline) - Florida state Sen. Dan Gelber is proposing an anti-corruption unit targeting state government fraud as part of his campaign for state attorney general.
Gelber, a Miami Beach Democrat and former prosecutor, wants state and federal prosecutors to go after public corruption similar to current efforts aimed at Medicaid fraud.
He made the announcement on Thursday. In addition, he sent letters to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida Pamela Marsh, explaining his proposed initiative.
"Floridians have lost a good measure of faith in their state government and it is understandable, with indictments coming out of Tallahassee and a general belief that special-interest money has overwhelmed the core mission of state government," Gelber said in a statement.
"We must aggressively attack public corruption, and this requires a unified and dedicated force that will solely focus on cleaning up Tallahassee. There has been an utter lack of scrutiny in large part because limited resources are dedicated to oversight of the excesses of state officials."
Gelber's plan would link prosecutors in the offices of the U.S. Attorney in the Northern District, state attorneys and the Florida attorney general -- the post he hopes to win come Nov. 2 against GOP nominee Pam Bondi.
Gelber said overreaches by the state Legislature continue to go unchecked and residents are growing frustrated by the lack of respect from their leaders.
"From a former House Speaker being indicted for his misappropriations of state funds to last minute, closed-door budget deal making that directed $48 million to the construction of a lucrative Taj Mahal-style courthouse, it's time state government is held accountable," he said in a statement.
Gelber's proposal also includes ethics reforms pushed by Palm Beach State Attorney Michael McAuliffe, who recently forced the resignation of Palm Beach County's fourth commissioner, Jeff Koons. Koons was the fourth commissioner in four years to leave office for wrongdoing.
The attorney general candidate tried but failed to convince lawmakers this year to pass an ethics reform package that included many of McAuliffe's recommendations during the session that ended in May.
Gelber's proposals would have made it a crime for any public official to knowingly withhold information about a financial interest in something on they vote or cause to take place. They also would have required disclosure of financial interests that could benefit a family member.
Gelber, in his statement Thursday, said, "I don't believe a corruption strike force will solve all these problems -- in fact, too much of what is sleazy about state government is not even illegal. However, I do believe a dedicated force of prosecutors and investigators can do a lot to change the culture of corruption that seems to define state government."
The state senator's campaign said he plans to release a series of policy initiatives, educating voters on his priorities as their next attorney general.
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.